Wednesday, Oct. 6, 1999. Hendrick Motorsports Press Conference. Chevrolet notes and quotes JEFF GORDON AND HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CEO RICK HENDRICK ANNOUNCE LIFETIME AGREEMENT. RICK HENDRICK (CEO Hendrick Motorsports) "The night I was ...
Wednesday, Oct. 6, 1999. Hendrick Motorsports Press Conference. Chevrolet notes and quotes
JEFF GORDON AND HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CEO RICK HENDRICK ANNOUNCE LIFETIME AGREEMENT.
RICK HENDRICK (CEO Hendrick Motorsports)
"The night I was negotiating with Richard Petty was the night that they caught Richard with the big engine over here at Charlotte. I was in the garage area after the race was over, and Harry Hyde and I were sitting in the car. Richard walked over the window and Harry said, 'don't worry about it. As soon as that thing cools off, it'll check OK.' Richard said, 'You can take that one to Alaska and she ain't going to check right.'
"That was kind of my intro to NASCAR racing. I see a lot of people today who have helped us. I see Randy Dorton over there that was one of the first employees when we were up on the hill. We rented 5,000 square feet from Harry Hyde. Harry's trailer that's sitting under the shed over here was sitting under the oak tree. A lot of things have happened in the past 15 years. I want to tell you, I'm extremely happy to be standing in front of you here today to announce a deal with Jeff Gordon that's going to be a lifetime deal. He's going to have an equity partnership in the 24 team, and we're going to race together for as long as we race. Jeff has been, I don't have to tell you what an asset he's been to the sport and our company. I don't have to tell you in the history of motorsports, I've never seen a talent come along quite like it. Through all that in the last six years, we've been great friends. He's been a big contributor to the entire organization, the four championships. I told him I'd sure like to win at least 10. Chemistry and working together, we've got four teams here. We've got the three Cup teams and the truck team. Now my son is in the Busch Series, getting more and more experience. I've seen Jeff in a lot of different roles. He's got one of the quickest business minds I've ever seen. I saw him at Myrtle Beach as a coach to my son and as the cheerleader for the team and organizer for the team. He's just mature way beyond his years, although he is getting a little older. Max (Muhleman of Muhleman Marketing, Inc.) says I'm a young man. If I'm a young man, we're all in trouble.
"We want to get ready for the new millennium and maintain the momentum we've got going. Some people say we haven't had a big year. Jeff has won six races. Terry has won two, and I'd like to count Bristol if I could. That might be nine. This sport is getting awful competitive. I'm very competitive. It fuels me. It makes me want to get up in the morning and come to work and compete. All the new people coming in, it's going to be very competitive. I feel like I've been fortunate enough to be associated with one of the greatest of all time. Now to have him as a partner in the 24 team and race for the rest of his career with us, it's a dream come true for me, and it's going to be a real stability factor for all our teams. Everyone, every team here will benefit. We're working harder to share because we know the competition out there is going to be greater. It gets tougher every day. I'm excited about our entire organization.
"Just for your benefit, I've got 57 more days and I'm off the treatment. I've been on it for three years. I've watched far too many of these victory lanes from home. They're not near as fun. I celebrate pretty hard by himself, but I really look forward to being in victory lane with the guys. I can't tell you how excited I am. Jeff and I have been working on this a long time. It's been well over a year we've been talking about it. It makes me proud that he has enough confidence in me and this organization that this is where he'd like to hang his helmet up. I give Jeff my total commitment. Whatever it takes, we're going to do it. All the people here are excited about it. This is just a great day for me and a great day for Hendrick Motorsports.
I always hoped that Jeff would be here and race with me forever. We started talking about this last year. From my standpoint, there was never any other decision. We spent a lot of time talking about what could be and how we would do it. I never sensed that when Jeff and I started talking about it the first of the year and we worked toward that with his people and my people this year, we kind of went shoulder to shoulder. From my standpoint anyway, we never had any idea of this not happening.
"Ray is definitely a strong talent and a good friend. There are 300 people plus here that worked with Ray and along side Ray, both from the research and development to Randy's engine department, the chassis shop. We've learned an awful lot together over the past six years. I think the focus is today, we have some really good crew chief and engineering meetings and we're looking at the future. We're trying to plan for the future. Brian was promoted from within because Jeff has an awful lot of confidence in Brian and so did Ray. It was obvious that he had a lot of talent and he was a big contributor to that 24 team. It shows our people that work here there's opportunity to move up. Not a bad record starting out winning the first race. There's no doubt (Brian's) got some big shoes to fill. We've got a lot of great people here and it's kind of life goes on. We're fired up for the 2000 and beyond. We're just trying to use all the resources that are here. That's our goal. In the past, we haven't worked together quite as well as we could have. Now, that's my main focus, to pull the teams together, the cars to be more alike and use all of the talent that's here. We know we've got a battle on our hands. The 24 team won (six) races, somebody else won a lot of races this year, so there's a lot of talent in NASCAR now. We've just got to pick up the ball. It's going to be a fight week in and week out. I think Jeff mentioned distractions, when you're trying to figure out who's going to be where and who's going to be your drivers. Terry Labonte is signed up now, and he wants to retire here. Jerry Nadeau is on board for four years. We can focus on getting as good as we can be and winning and not going through changes hopefully every six months or a year.
"Things change. I wouldn't want to do this with someone I didn't admire and like a lot as a person and respect his business abilities. We've worked together for six years now. It's a situation where Jeff offers a lot more than just his driving talent. His marketing experience, his experience in licensing business and a guy who's been on the cover of Fortune. Things change in this sport. I think it could be the best of both worlds. Jeff doesn't have to take the risk of owning his own team by himself and I've got a proven commodity here that I like a lot. The one thing I have learned being in business you darn sure don't want to be partners with someone you don't like. I don't care how talented or how much money they can make you or whatever, I just respect him a bunch. He's been a role model for my son. This operation is a huge operation and it's getting bigger. We're 300,000 feet on 60 acres and we've got plans for another 30-40,000 square feet. It's going to take a lot of talented people to keep it in the winning form and to stay even with the teams that are out there. Jeff has the business mind that can add a lot to our organization. He's 28 years old. He's got a lot of time to race if he wants to race. If he doesn't want to race, I'll be 36...
"We spent an awful lot of time trying to figure out what is fair and how things would work. You're looking at two situations. You're looking at Jeff Gordon the driver and Jeff Gordon the equity partner in the team. The driver is handled one way and this partnership is handled another. It took an awful lot of planning and talking and negotiating and trying to figure out all the areas that could be a problem down the road.
"We're going to build a new 24 shop on that hill. We've got kind of an R&D facility we're going to build along that ridge. We'll probably have a Busch team to take one of these buildings over here.
"We're looking at that (building a wind tunnel) very strongly now, and we'll probably make a decision on that in the next few weeks or a month.
"I think I'm a lot stronger than when you saw me in January. I have some really good days. I plan to do too much in those good days. Then I get whacked and I have to take a rest. I've been off the medication for seven days when they checked my marrow, so I know what it's like to be off the drugs. As far as my tests go, they couldn't be any better. I made a decision this year. I know I said I was going to get to as many races as I could, but getting in and out of that traffic. You folks know about that. It's not a four or five-hour ordeal. I'm better off here with the people planning the future and taking it easy because just a few more days now... I do go watch my son race. I don't ever want to regret missing seeing him do things he likes to do. I said this in January, but I hope you'll see me. I'll definitely try to be a little bit smaller, but I'll try to be at the track in January and be available. I know a lot of you wanted to talk to me, but I just haven't had the energy to do a lot of that. I'm feeling real good today. I think I've got a little bit of adrenaline here.
"We never know until it's over I guess. The shakeout finally happens, but the guys have told us they want to be here. They were very excited. There was a lot of enthusiasm at Martinsville. They were on a high, and I don't see any changes over there. I think they're committed to doing their thing and winning races with Jeff. You've got to remember that they've been with Jeff Gordon for a long time. Now that Jeff is stepping up in his role... You always have turnover. You always have people who are going to leave, but we don't see any mass exodus over there.
"I said this earlier, when I first saw Jeff I watched him in a Busch car and I couldn't believe the talent he showed at Atlanta. Just seeing him and watching him and the business decisions he's made at such a young age, he doesn't have a ton of advisers. He kind of makes his own decisions, and I've watched him. I've watched him with the team. I've watched him motivate people. I've watched him with my son. He does a lot more with my son than I can. This is a statement that we're going to work hard together to plan a future that will be good for both of us. He wants to race. I want to race. This organization wants to race. He knows all the weak spots. He knows all the potholes. I can't say I know too many potholes in Jeff Gordon's life. I'm committed to giving him the best stuff. He wants to race and I want to race, we're committed to racing together. If he wants to expand his role and he decides he wants not to drive, then there are lots of things to do in this sport other than drive a car. He's got all that experience and that knowledge. We think it'll work and work well. I was kidding him one day. I told him he could have my office. I wish I had the talent to drive. We'd to the reverse role. I would that Jeff is going to race at least 10 more years. I know you folks want to see him out there 10 more years, at least.
"We started to drive a Formula One car in here and cover it up and uncover it just to get some things started. Then we decided we've had enough fun the last couple of weeks. My job doesn't pay as much as his job does.
"We parted friends. I have agreed to help him (Ray Evernham) with the corporate structure of his team. We're going to work together. I could call him and he'd come help us. Whatever Ray and I agreed to or didn't agree to, we both shook hands and hugged and I wish him the best and I'll help him if he needs me and that's kind of the end of it.
"I'm disappointed that Ray is not going to be here, but I've been through that myself. I worked with someone in a car dealership and I wanted to do my own thing, so I can understand someone wanting to pursue his own future. He was not going to be the crew chief anyway. He made that clear to you folks. He wanted to do something different, and I'm not sure that he could kind of stand back and watch someone else and that 24 and be here. People change. What they want to do in life changes. I wish him the best, and
I want to help him. I've tried very hard never to burn a bridge with anyone who drove for me or ever worked here. You never know where your paths might cross.
"Jeff Gordon has got it all. We're good friends and we want to work together for a long, long time. Jeff said he didn't want to own his own team. He knows all the resources we have here. He likes the people here. We were willing to try to give Brian a chance. He's just blossomed. One race doesn't make a season, it doesn't make a career, but we're committed. I'm very competitive. I want to win. As one great scholar said, I think his name was Felix Sabates, once you've won one time you don't want to quit. The people here are used to winning, and they want to win. We won with Tim Richmond and we won with Darrell. Everybody moves on. It's so competitive out here. To see all the new people coming in, but I think our people have stepped up. I can tell you the engineers and the guys, the other crew chiefs, we've had a lot of meetings and we're making a lot of plans. If I got killed with Jeff and Ray in a plane crash, I would hope that this place would go on. I know NASCAR
would have a race next weekend. The true character of this organization is can we lose a guy like Ray and step it up and keep on going. That motivates us and challenges us. It motivates Jeff. Jeff is so mature. He's unbelievable. He's a good friend. We've never had a cross word in six years, never, even with contracts. That's something you can be proud of. You can say if you can get along like this, as long as you're going to be fair with each other, you should have a long, long relationship. I'm sure there's a lot of competitors out there that would like to see the two of them bust up or us bust up, but too many people here are determined not to let that happen, so we're going to do the best we can.
"The best thing about having a lifetime deal, and I kind of feel like I have one with Terry Labonte. He and I are going to do a dealership rather than a piece of the team. When you've got people that are working together in the same direction and you don't have to worry about people coming and distracting them by offering the moon or whatever, then they can focus on the job at hand. You see that with other drivers, not just my drivers. When they get distracted and they're trying to make up their mind where they're going to go and what they're going to do, they're not themselves. If all of the people here can focus and know they're going to be together, then we can put all of our efforts into it. It's nice not to have to deal with negotiating and new contracts and lawyers and all of that. If we can get the chemistry right and focus on winning and get on with it.
"I don't know much about it (Chrysler coming into NASCAR). I think they'll step it up. I think it'll be good for the sport. I think we need options. There'll be more engineering, more commitment. You'll see General Motors and Ford step up a little bit. I think it'll be good for all of us. I think the competition is going to be really fierce. I think NASCAR is going to have to take a hard look at their rules and make everything even. It's getting so big now. Too much money is coming in and too much importance is pla ced on this sport not to have it as equal and as even as it can be. That's all we want, just be even and we'll race 'em.
"I'm committed to stay with General Motors. I might run a Cadillac, I don't know, but I'm going to be with General Motors. Wouldn't you like to see a Cadillac out there? That'd be sharp. I'm crazy enough to do that maybe."
JEFF GORDON (No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Monte Carlo)
"This is an unbelievable day for me. I'm so excited about this and have been excited about this. I feel like I've been a partner since I started racing here at the end of '92. I guess today it's just on paper. I'm very, very excited about the future here. It's been such a thrill, not to just drive for Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports but to be associated with Rick and a person like that. People just love to be around someone like Rick Hendrick. He has such a presence. Not only is he a great businessman, but he's a great person. It's helped me want to be a better person. By being a partner with him and being behind the wheel of that 24 car for the rest of my motorsports career, it's exciting, very exciting. It's a challenge, but it's one that I'm really looking forward to. Like Rick said, we've been talking about this for a long. I've always told him that my dream would be to be here associated with Rick and Hendrick Motorsports and that 24 car for as long as I drive a race car. Today, we have made that happen. It's one of the happiest days of my career and one of the happiest days of my life. I can't wait for it. This past weekend was sort of a milestone for us with a lot of changes going on lately. At the same time, it was one of the biggest thrills. I felt like I had won my first race again. I think there's only greater things to happen in the future with Brian on board there. I'm not coming in here to change things. This team is going to run seamless with the other two teams and the truck team. Nothing is really going to change here. My input has always been there. I've always been able to have my opinion. That's why I've always felt like a partner. I'll definitely get more involved. I want to get more information, share more information and just do whatever it takes to give these guys what they need to win races. That's the same philosophy that I've seen Rick Hendrick have over the years that I've been here. I'm very, very excited about it. This is a big day for me, a big day for Hendrick Motorsports and I just cannot wait for the future and to see the whole organization get closer and closer together. That's what I want to see happen because I know as a group, we can make a lot of great things happen. If the 24 car is better because we're involved with the 25 and 5 and the truck team, that's what I want to see happening. If we can share things with those guys so they can be better, that's what I want to see. I want to see all three of these guys 1-2-3 at New York at the end of the year, winning the championship and second and third. I don't care where I fit in that order. It would just be awesome to see that one day. I'm so committed to this. I'm very excited about it. I wanted to see my name on the door of that 24 car for as long as I'm driving the car. Today, that became a reality.
"I think it's insignificant as far as what actual percentage it is. I'm a partner in Hendrick Motorsports and my role within the 24 car is no different than it is today. I'm going to be the driver. I'm going to focus on getting that car to go around the race track as best I can. Over time, I want to gradually get more involved. I heard Brian Whitesell say the other day, 'I'm looking more at the setup sheets, I'm talking more with the people.' Just like Rick has always done, he's wanted to give the whole organization everything he possibly could. If it's morale support or whatever it may be, I just want to be more involved with the actual race team. Right now, I'm a very busy person, a very hectic schedule. I want that schedule to be more in line with coming to the shop more, showing up earlier to the race track. This past weekend was a perfect example. We made a great group effort and we all trusted and believed in one another and worked together like we always have. The chemistry was there, and I want to see that continue to grow. I think it's more making sure that I know more about the business end and the race cars and everything it takes to win races and championships.
"There was never really anything close. There were certainly a lot of offers and a lot of people that came and talked to me about different opportunities. I always told Rick that he came first and if anything ever got
serious or before I ever decided to make my next decision, which I wanted my next decision to be my final decision, I don't want to have to have a contract come up for renegotiation again. It's a tedious process. I think it's been a distraction. I want this next one to be forever. Really, there was nothing that was ever close. There were a lot of talks that went on about a lot of different things. I came to Rick and said, 'hey, I want to be here forever.'
"I asked if that was a possibility, and he wanted that to happen, too. We're very fortunate that this is the third contract we've had here and everyone of them has been a great one, one that we both walked away happy with. I know I've been thrilled about everything, and we've had a great working relationship and a great friendship. This one just adds to that.
"There's no doubt that there are still people here today and things that maybe Ray implemented that are strong parts of the 24 car and Hendrick Motorsports. Some of the ideas that he had along the way are involved in that, but it really is about the people working together and that chemistry. There were a lot of great things that all of us learned from Ray that we'll be able to take on and go forward with in the future. At the same time, and this is why I made this decision to do this, there's so many resources here. There's no organization out there in NASCAR Winston Cup racing that I could go to that would give me the opportunities that Hendrick Motorsports could. A lot of sharp people work here. A lot of people that love what they do here and want to make a difference and want to do whatever it takes to make a winning organization, so I do see the three teams working closer together, sharing more ideas and information, especially with this new car coming along, the 2000 Monte Carlo. I've already seen the guys working really close together. The crew chief meetings have been going very well. The guys have been working very well together. That's what it's going to take to go forward is that type of support among everybody here in the organization.
"It won't affect it (Busch team) at all through the year 2000. Ray and Rick and myself, because of Rick's involvement with Ricky as we've been managing that team, as far as I know, nothing is going to change. I'm definitely doing the five races, possibly six races. Ray Evernham and myself are still great friends. He was the first one who called me after Martinsville and left a message. I know he and Rick talked immediately after the Martinsville win. He and Brian talked. I know it's hard to understand that, but it's true. We still have a great relationship and also within our businesses. I'm really looking forward to running the race this weekend. He and I talked and we're going to go out there and have some fun and try to win that race. We want to do the same thing next year. Past that, I'm not exactly sure. We haven't decided what's going to happen, but there's other things, too. Racing For A Reason is a charitable organization that we're partners with. I plan on that continuing to get bigger and better and going forward with that. Really, nothing changes here. Ray has an opportunity that he wants to do that we're supporting him with. He's a guy who needs to be challenged, and he's going to have that challenge. This is what I've been wanting. Unfortunately, it wasn't all of us together. We certainly would have liked to have had that and have made that happen. This is where we are, and I'm excited about it and I'm happy for Ray and wish him all the best.
"It's important to see Brian, when Brian moved up, it gave those guys a lot of strength and encouragement that you can move up in this organization. Look where Brian started at the 24 car and look where he's at now. I think those guys have really rallied around Brian and myself to make this team even stronger. I've been saying all year long, this is a better and stronger team than they've ever been before. I think because of some of the things they've been through the last couple of weeks, it's made them even stronger yet."